Sen. Harkin calls Atalissa case "rude awakening" - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Sen. Harkin calls Atalissa case "rude awakening"

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Advocates for the disabled and workers say the Iowa case of 21 disabled workers from Texas who lived for decades in a ramshackle house for meager wages has exposed loopholes in the nation's labor laws.

They told a Senate panel Monday in Washington that the case shows weaknesses in laws that allow employers to pay less than the minimum wage to workers under certain circumstances. They also noted laws letting employers deduct the reasonable cost of providing food, lodging and other services from paychecks.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin called the revelations in Atalissa, a "rude wake up call." Harkin says he's developing legislation to re-examine wage rules for the disabled, review the enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act and impose stiffer fines.

"In our efforts to ensure that individuals with disability find employment and economic self-sufficiency, we obviously must draw a bright line in prohibiting and preventing employers from taking advantage of these vulnerable workers," Harkin told the Senate Panel Monday.

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